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DVD review: 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

'The Grand Budapest Hotel'


Wes Anderson has been covered plenty by this Examiner, for good reason.

'The Grand Budapest Hotel'
'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

His latest offering is 'The Grand Budapest Hotel.'

Through the magic of flashback, we go back in time to hear the most compelling chapter in the history of the once glamorous Grand Budapest Hotel. The concierge at the time, Monsier Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) ably rules all aspects of the hotel while also being somewhat of a playboy with the older, wealthier guests. One of these VIPs is Madame Céline Villeneuve "Madame D" Desgoffe und Taxis (Tilda Swinton). He takes on a teen, Zero (Tony Revolori) to be his protegee and shows him the ropes of running the hotel.

When Madame D dies under mysterious circumstances and leaves a valuable painting to Gustave, it is assumed by her greedy family, led by her son Dmitry (Adrien Brody), that she was murdered to acquire the art. Gustave hides the painting and makes Zero his heir before being imprisoned due to a forced testimony by Madame D's butler.

Gustave escapes from prison and sets about trying to clear his name, with Zero's help. The police are after him, though, led by Inspector Henckels (Edward Norton). Dmitry has sent an assassin, J.G. Joplings (Willem Dafoe) after him, as well.

Will Gustave clear his name? Can he keep the hotel afloat? Will Zero be able to properly court his beloved Agatha (Saoirse Ronan)?

Unlike some of Anderson's other work, this isn't overly concerned with being sentimental. It also wouldn't be entirely accurate to call it a straightforward comedy because the subject matter gets quite dark. People are murdered, people are imprisoned and there are also some sad moments. Content-wise, this is clearly Anderson's most adult film. At the same time, there is also quite a bit of heart.

Take the aforementioned elements and throw them into a madcap caper because that’s what this really is, at least in terms of energy level. One could look back to classic slapstick cinema for some of the chase sequences that were clearly an inspiration here. It’s the juxtaposition of the often stuffy characters and the rash decisions that they feel they are forced to make that makes this work on a comedic level.

If anything, this might be also be his most ambitious project in terms of scope. Characters travel seemingly great distances across Eastern Europe in many different environments. The visuals are also appropriately spectacular, particularly a sled chase scene and various cable car trips up mountains.. It seems some lessons were learned from making 'The Fantastic Mr. Fox' and even 'The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.’

It's almost a little disorienting that the movie exists as a story within a story within a story. Another minor gripe could be that for as frantic and exciting as the climax gets, the story comes to a screeching halt to provide resolution.

As far as the cast, Fiennes turns in one of the best performances of his career. Wow, he really knocks it out of the park here. It's also nice to see Brody in another one of these films. He was so great in 'The Darjeeling Limited.' Dafoe, plays a nearly mute character, but he brings an appropriate menace. Revolori does a nice job as the straight man in these scenes and following Fiennes' lead. Most of the regulars are represented, some in more of a brief, token fashion. That's the trade-off when working with such a large cast.

Special features include: a few sneak previews.

If you like Wes Anderson's work, you should be very much on board with 'The Grand Budapest Hotel.' In many ways, it isn't as immediate as some of the other films and requires some thought, perhaps even a second viewing, to fully appreciate.

This examiner hasn't had enough time to fully process the film to determine where it would rank in Anderson's oeuvre, but rest assured that it is a very worthy addition.

Rated R 99 minutes 2014